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The Truth of Fire

for vocal ensemble (12 voices) and unseen narrator

Year:  2004   ·  Duration:  17m
Instrumentation:  SSSAAATTTBBB

Year:  2004
Duration:  17m
Instrumentation  SSSAAATTTBBB

Dorothy Ker

Composer:   Dorothy Ker


The Truth of Fire text was originally developed as part of - but was ultimately omitted from - my stage work Dreaming Iphianassa (completed in 1998). I am indebted to my collaborator/librettist, my brother James Ker, who also provided translations and advice on the Greek and Latin texts. The Truth of Fire draws on an image embedded in the opening of Aeschylus's Agamemnon, in which the night watchman sights a glow on the horizon signalling the end of a decade of war: a message in light transmitted from island to island as each new recipient ignites the next fire. In an echo of this image, a cumulative succession of descriptions of fire passes through the text, merging with vivid images of the violent destruction of Troy. Torn from a larger dramatic continuity, the text reaps rich poetic value from a fragment of narrative, highlighting the elemental aspect of the drama and the metaphor of fire as word/word as fire. In my setting of this poem, two additional strands furnish a broader context and provide a rich sonic palette with which to create the piece: one of ancient Greek, freely constructed from fragments of the Agamemnon (which forms the main continuity and frame of the piece); and one of Latin (also heard in English translation), excerpts from De Rerum Natura by Lucretius highlighting the transience of events and observations on the nature of fire, which are interpolated periodically as columns of surreal rationality. This layering of diverse texts reflects something of the multi-faceted profile of the Trojan myth, which has been exploited by Homer, Aeschylus and others to paint energetic imagery of war and fire. This work was composed for EXAUDI who gave it its first performance at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2003

Contents note

Premiered by EXAUDI, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, November 2004